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the return to Zion (by Jim)

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Zion National Park will always hold a place as one of the most important and special places on the planet for me. It is where I made one of my first road trips with friends, as a junior in high school, and more importantly, it is where Sarah and I became friends, where we first told each other that we loved each other, where I proposed to her, where we spent our first wedding anniversary, and now, on the fourth anniversary of that first wonderful afternoon in Zion, where we brought our 10-week-old baby for her first real road trip. Our visit to Zion last weekend was the first we’d made in long time, but being there was like visiting an old and very well-loved friend.

One of Sarah and I’s long-term projects is to visit all of the national parks in the lower 48 together. We have done surprisingly well, in a relatively short amount of time, but one that has managed to elude us is Bryce Canyon. We’ve both been, but not together, which is odd considering Sarah lived down there while we were dating. Since we’d be passing by on our way to Zion on this trip, and had time to kill, we decided we’d finally pay it a visit. Ceci slept as we hiked into the canyon and explored the muddy, winter hoodoos of the Queens Garden trail, but she woke up and soaked in the views from the rim with us. Her eyes truly lit up at the expanse in front of her. Newborn vision isn’t very detailed, but I have no doubt that the contrast of the blue sky against the red rock was something even her little eyes could appreciate. It’s a nice memory for us to carry, especially considering that Bryce Canyon now holds the distinction of being the first national park she’s visited outside the womb!

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After Bryce we continued south on Highway 89, stopping in Alton to visit perpetual badass (and Sarah’s former coworker), Gary. He and I paid a visit to the Alton Mine eye sore, before heading back to his place for tea and a sunset next to his wood stove. Yes, it was as awesome as it sounds. Leaving Gary’s, our full day of travel eventually ended in Kanab, where Sarah and I “officially” celebrated our anniversary with dinner at the Rocking V. Rocking C would be a more appropriate name though, as Sarah had to rock Ceci to sleep in a baby carrier as we ate our dinner. After that we headed to our hotel, hoping that a night away from home wouldn’t be too much for our little adventurer. She surprised us again by sleeping like a rock through the night.

Sunday was spent with our friend Molly, who did us the great service of capturing some fantastic shots of Ceci on her first romp through Zion. We first visited a secret canyon full ancient petroglyphs, and soon realized it was mere yards from the “special spot” where I asked Sarah to marry me three years earlier. What a perfect place for Ceci’s first adventure in the park! We then hiked another short trail to Canyon Overlook, before heading out to dinner at Oscar’s, a Zion tradition.

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Winter traffic being slow, we were able to book a cabin at the Zion Lodge in Zion Canyon, so after dinner, we said goodbye to Molly and settled into our cabin for the night. While we aren’t usually the type of people to stay at a lodge, I will say that the ability to drink wine under Zion Canyon stars, as well as wake up and see first light on the red canyon walls, are more than enough reason to try and do it again down the road.

Needing to make the five-hour drive back to Salt Lake the next day, we decided that a morning hike on the Angel’s Landing trail would be a good exclamation point on our sojourn. The plan was to hike as far as we felt comfortable, and that ended up being all the way to the high plateau of Scout’s Lookout. Ceci was the youngest hiker on the trail, and earned rave reviews from us (and fellow hikers) for being one badass adventure baby.

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Sarah and I now have even more memories that will enhance the narrative we’re fashioning of Zion in our family lore. We also learned that Ceci is a mighty traveler and bonafide adventurer in training. I feel nothing but excitement when I think of returning with her on future visits, where she will surely come to love and value this majestic place as much as her parents do. I’d better start coming up with more facts to bore her with on the way down though!

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